East Grand Highlands Trail

Given the vast beauty of our unspoiled landscape and our success in conserving major portions of this land area, it makes sense to enhance the current wilderness opportunities and accommodate these breaking trends. The Trust recognizes the importance of doing it– and doing it right–without negatively impacting the values we have all worked so hard to protect.

east_grand_highlands_trailPublic support and good planning will be essential, both before, and throughout the process of mapping, building, maintenance and management.

Chiputneticook, the Passamaquoddy name for our part of the St. Croix system, literally means “lakes among high hills.” It is an area of profound beauty and topographical interest. While much of that view shed is accessible from the water, hiking trails can provide those on foot with an opportunity to experience some of this country.

Besides the physical logistics of trail construction and the availability of access for trail heads, good planning and public input is essential. A trail must garner the support and sanction of property owners and be respectful of the values they hold dear. This might have to do with their own long-term, land-holding mission, the need to avoid sensitive areas used by the owner, noise avoidance, and people management. Environmental issues such as erosion control and fragile ecosystems have to be addressed carefully. Legal liability has to be clear, as well as stewardship responsibilities.

These concerns have been addressed elsewhere and we believe they can be managed here, equally as well. Also, the visual and environmental impacts can be minimized with careful discretion. The potential public benefits are huge, for residents and visitors alike.

As you will see, below, the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust is actively participating in a new hiking trail system on the west side of East Grand Lake, while a number of other concepts have been suggested around the Forest City area. The Trust would like to solicit your ideas for nature trails in the vicinity. Do you know of a special hill or watercourse that might host a rustic walking trail? Is there someone we might partner with? What are some things we need to be especially mindful of? We really look forward your ideas and input as we embark on the concept and planning phase of trail development. And perhaps, one day, we will need your labor!

Partnering Within The Community

The Trust is currently exploring how to partner within the Lakes Region, to ensure a high quality of life for residents and to draw recreation-based visitors from other markets. This is a natural expansion of our already well-established mission of protecting and preserving Maine’s most vital natural lands and shoreline by providing wildlife habitat, clean water and scenic view-sheds in the Boundary Lakes Region, for generations to come.

This is a time when education and outreach to the general public and active community involvement are more important than ever. As national trends regarding childhood obesity and nature-deficit disorder suggest, we need as many opportunities as possible for children and families to engage in the great outdoors, to create meaningful, nature-based experience.

The East Grand Highlands Trail Project

Over the winter, the Trust was approached by a group from the Danforth area who felt the community could benefit by providing a trail system for hiking. The Greater East Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce and the folks from CORE, a group dedicated to increasing student enrollment at East Grand Lake School (via an outdoor education program) took the initiative and the East Grand Highlands Trail Project was founded in the winter of 2015-16.

The GEGL Chamber met on Friday Feb. 26th and during the meeting voted to kick-off funding of the trail project with $2000.00. In addition, the WWLT board met on Wednesday March 2nd and voted to partner with the Chamber on the hiking trail project with a pledge of $2000.  This partnership gives the project access to additional volunteers, a broader visibility within the Trust’s membership and the ability to write, accept and manage grants through the Trust’s non-profit status.

The project, spearheaded by Stephen Mine (of GEGL Chamber & WWLT), is being directed through a steering committee consisting of teachers, students and local interested community members. The committee has been working on budgeting, building a volunteer list with contact info, informing the community of the project, setting work party dates, and planning the phases of work to be completed.

suckerlakeview

The present location of the trail system was made possible through the generosity of the David B. Snow Jr. Family Trust, which granted an easement across a portion of its land that overlooks Sucker Lake. The committee has finalized the land use license for the trails, which was signed by the Chamber, the Land Trust and by David Snow, Jr.  The Snow family “is happy to allow the use of the land for the trails so that people can enjoy the natural beauty of the space”.

The trail head is on the east side of US Route 1, just South of Danforth and 200 yards north of the Greenland Cove Road. The trail will lead to the top of the hill and then split to circumnavigate Sucker Lake. There will be designated areas for picnicking around the lake and also at the overlook area.

Steve Mine states, “This will be a two year project overall with Phase 1, Phase 2 and part of Phase 3 Trails having already been flagged along with the proposed trail head parking area on Route #1. We have also located our preferred area for the overlook and overlook picnic area. While flagging the trail that heads down to and around the southern end of Sucker Lake we’ve discovered a very beautiful area strewn with an abundance of fern covered glacial erratic boulders of all sizes and some areas of majestic old growth timber.

We expect to open the phase 1 trails and trail head parking area by early this summer with phase 2 trails by mid to late summer. The overlook and overlook picnic area we hope to have completed by late summer or early fall. The balance of the trails will be built over the next 2 years.”

east_grand_highlands_map

The cost of completing phase 1 and 2 trails along with the trail head, overlook picnic area and overlook platform is estimated to be around $15,000.00, After much endeavor, Steve reports that “a grant was written and submitted on April 4th, 2016.  We hope to receive between $5,000.00 & $7,000.00 from the grant in June to help support this project. That would still leave us a bit short of cost expectations.

In the wake of Federal and state budget reductions, competition for grant-based financial support is formidable, and evidence of the need for broad-based support strategy is imperative. Encouraging and supporting private landowner charitable donations of lands and easements are more critical than ever to the work of conservation.

If you are interested in supporting this exciting project please send a donation to the Woodie Wheaton Land Trust, 2 Grove Road, Forest City, Maine 04413, and note “EGH Trail Project” in the memo section.  If you wish to donate your time and services please send an email to: hikeeastgrandlake@yahoo.com or sgmine@aol.com.

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